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PLAYLIST: Zola Jesus' New Album Inspirations
Christian Eede , September 11th, 2017 15:01

Following the release of her latest album last week, Zola Jesus shares a playlist made up of music that inspired the record

Friday saw the release of Zola Jesus' latest album, entitled Okovi, via Sacred Bones.

Okovi features contributions from the musician's longtime live bandmate Alex DeGroot, Tri Angle signee WIFE, cellist Shannon Kennedy from Pedestrian Deposit and percussionist Ted Byrnes. The record marks Zola Jesus' return to Sacred Bones following the 2014 release of her last album, Taiga, through Mute.

"Last year, I moved back to the woods in Wisconsin where I was raised," she said, speaking recently about the album. "I built a little house just steps away from where my dilapidated childhood tree fort is slowly recombining into earth. Okovi was fed by this return to roots and several very personal traumas. While writing Okovi, I endured people very close to me trying to die, and others trying desperately not to. Meanwhile, I was fighting through a haze so thick I wasn’t sure I’d find my way to the other side."

Now, she has shared more background on the record, with a playlist of music below featuring tracks that inspired her in different ways while writing and recording the album.

Maria Tanase - 'Cand o fi la moartea mea'

"Discovering the jewel of Romania, Maria Tanase, was a really vital part of this record. This song in particular hit me so hard. The lyrics are incredibly dark: (she says: 'I'd like to die, but death doesn’t come to me'.) Most importantly though, finding Tanase's music helped me a lot. She reminded me that there is an incredible power to being a torch singer. She made me excited to use my voice to speak up for people, and to tell stories."

Olivera Katarina - 'Djelem, Djelem'

"This version of 'Djelem, Djelem' was on repeat for a long time. I love Olivera Katarina's deep alto. It's such an understated yet emotional performance. I was often listening to it wistfully, wishing I could convey such pain and suffering with my own voice."

Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares - 'Kalimankou Denkou'

"Most of the music I've been listening to the past year has been Eastern European folk music. It's not only the most beautiful, but it feeds me in such a primal way. The harmonies and melodies in this music are completely absorbing to my core. It is deeply ancestral."

Rimsky Korsakov - 'The Nightingale and The Rose'

"It is songs and performances like this that make me wish I would've become the opera singer I thought I was destined to be as a child. It's beyond inspiring. I've been trying to bring 'that voice' back into my music, however cautiously."

Nico - 'Frozen Warnings'

"I have been listening to a lot of Marble Index and Desertshore the past few years. I really love how ancient some of Nico's melodies are. I saw La Cicatrice Interieure for the first time this year at the Metrograph in NYC. To say it inspired me was a complete understatement. It decimated me."

The Boys Next Door - 'Shivers'

"As I was dealing with someone very close to me attempting suicide, I was listening to this song a lot. I love how direct the lyrics are. It reminded me to stop overthinking and to just write exactly what's on my mind, uncensored. Once I did that the music became so much more cathartic and useful to my emotional health."

Magdalith - 'Eli, Eli, Lama Azavtani'

"Magdalith was a recent discovery that really affected me. Her music is minimal and sacred, yet has an experimental nature which makes it feel so enigmatic. I am hungry for women who use the far reaches of their voice, so to find her was very exciting."

Striborg - 'Where Cold and Darkness Meet'

"While writing Okovi I was listening to a lot of black metal. All the bands I am drawn to are raw, primitive, and visceral. During my darkest moments these past few years I'd listen to bands like Striborg, to help me come to terms with what I was going through. I often tried to bring that energy and intensity into my own production and songwriting."

Domenico Scarlatti - 'Sonata K.27'

"For some reason, I started to really get into harpsichord. I love to listen to it while cooking; it makes me feel like Hannibal Lector. There is such an impressive mastery to harpsichord playing. It's also surprisingly aggressive. I bet if you ran Scarlatti through a Death Metal pedal it would sound like Sutcliffe Jugend. Maybe?"

Velehentor - 'Dyatlov Pass'

"Velehentor, along with a bunch of other dark ambient, was on deep rotation while writing Okovi. I appreciate how environmental it is. When listening to Dyatlov Pass, I feel instantly transported to a different place. I love the minimalism and atmosphere of dark ambient. It inspired me to focus more on texture, which is something I so enjoy creating as a producer.

Hunting Lodge - 'The Wolf Hour'

"I've always loved industrial, but I tended to revisit some of my favourites quite a bit this year. Often while listening to, say, Hunting Lodge, I would ask myself why I loved this music so much. And the answer made me realise how far my own music had drifted from the very kind that I love. Sometimes the perfectionist in me wants to clean everything up, when really the truth is, all I ever care about is the chaos."

Zola Jesus' new album, Okovi, is out now on Sacred Bones

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